The Numbers Game – Electoral College Style

Have you visited You can view real-time update of the ever-shifting electoral vote projections. Every conceivable combination of outcomes necessary for either Obama or McCain to win can be scrutinized on this site. And with a bit of navigating, you can also access up-to-date results from a number of pollsters.

I slid from complacency to craven abjectness some weeks ago when the chart that projected Obama’s 84% likelihood of victory no longer graced the home page. Instead, interactive simulations held center stage, displaying a cascading series of possibilities in which McCain, apparently, won more often than not. Every time a viewer clicked the link, a new, equally dire set of red flashes spilled into the swing states, spelling doom to (IMHO) reason and hope.

Revisiting the site yesterday, I was pleased to see the chart restored to the home page, with Obama now holding a 99% possibility of winning! But what precisely does this mean? By clicking on each swing state, and referring to the table that appears below, we view its voting history. I see unsettling amount of GOP votes in a great many of them. (Be forewarned that the first time you click on a swing state, it turns red. Click again, and it turns blue. So the initial color shift signifies nothing.)

Having fallen on my aspiration after last month’s visit to the site, I no longer lean on the percentages. We’ve seen how grandstanding, spurious claims and shifts of the public tide of opinion (red tide?) can erode support for Obama. But I’ll warm myself in the autumn sun between the clouds, and hope for brighter days come November.

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6 Responses to The Numbers Game – Electoral College Style

  1. Alison says:

    Thanks, Susan. I was aware of the National Popular Vote bill, but had not heard where it stood in various state legislatures. Nor had I understood at what point it would take effect.

    It would certainly seem to me that most of the marginalized states would pass this bill. If so, it’s only a matter of time until each vote contributes equally to our final outcome.

    As the Electoral College system is legal, which is more than I can say with assurance about how crucial votes were tallied in past elections, I retain my initial perspective that Obama’s current strength in the electoral count is a real issue worth celebrating!


  2. susan says:

    The real issue is not how well Obama or McCain might do state-by-state, but that we shouldn’t have battleground states and spectator states in the first place. Every vote in every state should be politically relevant in a presidential election. And, every vote should be equal. We should have a national popular vote for President in which the White House goes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral vote — that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Because of state-by-state enacted rules for winner-take-all awarding of their electoral votes, recent candidates with limited funds have concentrated their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential election.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes– 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.



  3. Alison says:

    Great to hear your responses – thanks!

    Revisiting the site and running the simulations helps me understand just what the 99% probability of an Obama win is structured upon. I recommend it! And then, if things slide south, we can utilize Stephen’s strategy for a cyber-lift…


  4. Stephen says:

    Awesome game! It reminds me of Risk… just to make myself feel better, I clicked all of the states blue except for one (guess which one!). The result? Obama 535 McCain 3. I keep hoping all of America will wisen up (ha ha). No, it won’t happen… but hey, it made me feel great!


  5. Jill says:

    Good to see someone else a little confused by that website! I think I’ll join you in the sun and just keep my fingers and toes crossed…!


  6. Awesome post, Alison -and Welcome! I love it that you are blogging here!


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